He was looking into the lifeless green eyes of his mother, staring blankly at the blue sky above. She looked pretty, Tony observed, hovering above her floating body. Dressed in a white summer dress, her silky hair creating a dark curtain around her pale face, motionless limbs rocking slightly every time a breeze hit the calm surface of the water in the swimming pool, she looked more like a life-sized doll than a living person; than his mother.
"Mom?" He whispered, hoping she'd stop staring at something he couldn't see, couldn't understand, and just smile at him with that comforting smile of hers. At the moment he wasn't Anthony DiNozzo Jr., Baltimore homicide detective, he was Tony, son of Isabella DiNozzo. A kid whose mother just drowned in the swimming pool after mixing pills with alcohol, slipping on the wet floor and hitting her head while going down. "Wake up, mom! Please."
Noticing his pleas had an echo, he quickly turned around and found himself standing in front of an 8 year old version of himself. He was screaming with tears running down his red face soaking the white sailor suit his mom had insisted he put on.
"Mom! Please, please, wake up!" It was like a broken record and he wished it'd stop with all the pleading, begging and bargaining. God, stop! It hurt to listen to the gut wrenching wails. He felt like he was the one screaming. Although, in some way he was.
"Stop! Fucking STOP!" The crying stopped but he continued, not caring one bit of his voice echoed in the silence, leaving a bitter taste in his mouth. "She is dead. Dead…"
The younger Tony glared at him with all the hatred an eight year old boy could muster. "Yeah, she is. And you killed her!"
Whirling around, Tony stared at previously lifeless form of his mother that suddenly sprang to life and looked him in the eyes. Green meeting green.
She was saying something, but Tony couldn't hear what. Her mouth was forming words that refused to be voiced.He wanted to hear her; to hear the voice he had last heard a lifetime ago. A voice he didn't remember anymore. The thought of not being able to remember what his mother sounded like anymore brought a lump to his throat, making it hard to swallow. She used to sing to him before bed each night, dammit!
"You could have saved her!" A loud, hard voice boomed and Tony whipped around only to come face to face with his father, red faced with a bottle of alcohol in his hand.
"Dad," he whispered, "I am sorry." The words came easily, accompanied by countless of memories where he had done the same. The result had been always the same as well.
The bottle didn't surprise him. He watched it fly towards him in slow motion but he didn't move out of the away; he never ducked. Closing his eyes, he waited for the inevitable pain to come. It never did. Cautiously opening his eyes, Tony blinked in surprise when instead of his father's angry eyes, he was looking into Gibbs' piercing blue ones.
"Gibbs?" he croaked, his heart beating wildly in his chest.
"You killed her," Gibbs growled and Tony took a step back, shocked at the intense hate in the older man's voice. "She trusted you. I trusted you and you killed her!"
His hands shaking, Tony took a deep breath and glanced at his mother's still form, only to gasp loudly when he realized it wasn't his mom's body floating on the water's surface anymore. Suddenly he was running; he needed to save her, he couldn't let her die like his mother. He knew how to swim this time.
Diving into the water, he quickly swam to the motionless figure and took one pale hand in his.
"Wake up, please, wake up!" he pleaded, his eyes filling with tears that refused to fall.
"She can't wake up." Gibbs appeared next to him. "She's dead. All because of you. Because you couldn't save her. Because you're dangerous and get people killed. Do you hear me, DiNozzo?"
"No," Tony choked," I didn't…I…no…" Gently placing two shaking fingers on the side of her neck, he desperately tried to feel for a pulse, a sign of life. He found none.
Her green eyes were staring at him, unblinking and sightless, her lips slightly parted in a silent scream. A strand of black hair tickled his forearm and he drew away as if it burned. "No."
"Why?" Gibbs looked at him, the anger from before replaced by so much heartbreak, it took Tony's breath away. The tears were running down his cheeks in rivers as he watched Gibbs, the man he had come to respect in the last couple of days, draw his sig and point it at him.
"You've disappointed me." The words cut straight through his heart, bringing back painful memories he had tried to hard to forget.
"You've killed Abby, Tony."
Hearing Gibbs say her name, hearing Gibbs say his name was too much for him. His world shattered and he didn't care one bit of the older man was seconds away from putting a hole in his forehead.
He could hear someone calling his name but he ignored it, opting instead for closing his eyes and waiting for the inevitable. He didn't deserve anything else.
And Tony woke up with a start.
It took Tony a while to realize where he was; where was up and where was down. The first couple of seconds he didn't know anything except the overwhelming urge to cry and be forgiven, to be comforted. He saw Gibbs and it all came crashing down on him.
It wasn't until a while later, clutching at Gibbs as if the man was his lifeline, did Tony realize what he was doing. He was hugging Gibbs! He was fucking crying on his shoulder and babbling nonsense and being so damn ridiculous, that the older man had to be disgusted by him.
Flushing a deep red, Tony slowly let go of Gibbs' arm, and leaned back against his seat. Refusing to meet the ex marine's gaze, he resorted to staring out of the window instead. He didn't want to see the disappointment in the other man's face; it was too familiar for his comfort.
"Sorry," Tony mumbled, running a shaking hand through his brown hair. "It's…I-I mean..th-"
"Stop while you're at it, DiNozzo. If what comes next of your mouth is an apology, I'll slap you so hard you won't even know your own name anymore. I don't want to hear it."
Tony blinked. "You know, if this is what you call comforting, I really don't want to see you angry."
Gibbs gave a humorless chuckle. "DiNozzo, you don't want comforting, even I can see so.
What you need is to tell me what the nightmare was about."
Crossing his arms over his chest, Tony stubbornly refused to meet his gaze. "Oh, really? How did you figure that out?"
"Because I know you, DiNozzo."
This time it was Tony's turn to laugh. "Really? Really, Gibbs? You actually think you know me?" He lowered his voice and whispered. "How can you know me, if I hardly know myself?"
There was a moment of silence as Gibbs looked straight ahead, seemingly deep in thought and Tony, thinking he had lost every ounce of respect the older man may had held for him, was staring at his hands in a deep concentration. He couldn't quite hide the anguish in his green eyes and he knew Gibbs saw it. Could the situation get even worse?
"I do know you, Tony." Gibbs looked as if he wanted to say something more before he changed his mind and shook his head. "I just do."
Tony glared at the older man. "This is not how it works, Gibbs. You can't just order me to do something, without giving me a good reason, and expect me to listen to you like some good little lapdog. I've been doing that for far too long now." His eyes widened as he realized he had once again revealed a bit more about himself than he had wanted to.
"I'm not asking you to be my lapdog, DiNozzo. " He paused for a moment, his blue eye meeting Tony's green ones with an intensity that surprised the younger man. It was as if Gibbs was offering him a glance into his very soul. "I'm asking you to trust me."
Without actually thinking about it, he replied, "I do trust you." The realization that he actually really meant it took his breath away. What was it about the ex marine that he had been able to win his trust so effortlessly? What was it about Gibbs that broke through all his hard built defenses and left him feeling like a little kid again, begging for attention and approval? It was pathetic and he hadn't felt as vulnerable in years.
Gibbs just nodded and leaned back against his seat and looked out of the window, giving Tony time to gather his composure. "I can't force you to talk, Tony, but I am here if yo-"
"I want to talk. I want to tell you…I-I need to tell you," he cut in, voice strained. "Just not sure you'll like what I have to tell you. If you don't, I'll understand if you'll want me off the investigation. Hell, I'll be out of your sight faster than you can say-"
"Stop." Gibbs gave him a stern look.
"I was thinking more along the lines of 'faster than you can say disaster', but whatever-"
"DiNozzo," the former marine growled as he whirled around to face the younger man. He had wanted to make things easier for Tony by not watching him while he recounted his nightmare, knowing the younger man wouldn't appreciate being exposed like that for the world, for him, to see. But enough was enough. "I'm listening."
Tony took a deep breath to calm down and looked at Gibbs hesitantly. After a silent moment spent staring at each other, the Baltimore detective sunk deeper into his seat and shook his head in something akin to amusement.
"I just can't keep anything from you, can I?"
"Nope," Gibbs responded with a smile of his own. "And you better not try it."
"The dream…the nightmare was about my mom," Tony began uncertainly, toying with the hem of his shirt. "About when she died."
Tony shivered, remembering the pallor of his mother's skin as she floated on the water with her green eyes wide open but not seeing anymore. He forced himself to continue, knowing he owed Gibbs to at least finish what he had started.
"My mom…my mom wasn't like your usual mom. She loved to laugh, have a good time and go to parties and even though she didn't have that much time for me and even though she dressed me in those horrible sailor suits….she always made me feel important and loved, you know?"
Gibbs remained silent, not sure if he understood a mother that didn't have time for her son but had time for going to parties, but he decided not to voice his thoughts, afraid Tony would change his mind and refuse to tell him more.
"Every time she came home from a business trip with my father, she'd hug me and bring me the best presents money could buy." Tony smiled, remembering the way she had looked at him with warmth in her eyes, they way she had softly told him she had missed him and the way her expensive French perfume had reminded him of flowers in spring, of comfort and most importantly of safety and home.
Gibbs gave him a sad smile, seeing what Tony would never acknowledge. A mother who had other priorities in life than entertaining her young son at home; a mother who felt guilty and thought buying gifts and the occasional hug would make it feel better and a son, who didn't know any better and thought it was alright.
Tony took a deep breath, bracing himself for what was yet to come. "She drank that day," he started, his voice just slightly above a whisper." She did that sometimes, when she wanted to relax and unwind after the business trips with my dad."
He looked at Gibbs, as if making sure the older man was listening, before continuing. "We had this giant pool, right behind the house and mom decided it would be nice to spend some quality time together so she could teach me how to swim and all that. " Tony chuckled with a dark amusement. "I was 8 fucking years old and still couldn't swim. I was terrified of water. How stupid is that?"
Gibbs opened his mouth to reply but Tony cut him off." So I refused. What a chicken, huh? Mom was disappointed, I could tell by the frown on her face and the way she stood, holding a glass of martini in her hand. She had this angry stance, you know. Then she probably decided I was hopeless and wanted to…well, I don't remember anymore what she wanted to do but she slipped on the edge of the pool and hit her head going down. She drowned. And I just stood there, like a gaping fish and did nothing but scream for help. Pretty pathetic, right?"
Tony intentionally left out the part about how he had tried to pull his mother out of the water but had only succeeded in pushing her further away. He also didn't say how he had, in a desperate attempt to save her, jumped into the water and splashed around, trying not to drown and save his mom at the same time, until the gardener had pulled him out, kicking and screaming.
"What happened then?" Gibbs' quiet question cut through the painful memories like a sharp knife, bringing Tony back to the present. He blinked in confusion at first, before he realized that Gibbs had asked him a question.
He shrugged. "Well, mom died, there was a funeral and life was never the same again."
"What about your father? How did he take it?" Gibbs asked, studying the younger man next to him and he didn't miss the sharp intake of breath. There was more to this story than Tony had revealed so far.
"He was angry."
The former marine cocked his head to the side, observing the young detective, who was fidgeting in his seat.
A dark suspicion started forming in his mind but he refused to believe that a father would be as callous as to do that to his own child.
"Who was he angry at, Tony?"
Tony sat quietly for a while and turned his head towards the window, and just as Gibbs wanted to repeat his question, the younger man responded.
"Me. He was angry at me for not knowing how to swim, for not saving her and for letting her near the pool in the first place. Said it should have been me and that I was dangerous to the people I cared for. That I'd get them all killed one day."
Gibbs saw a single tear roll down Tony's cheek, feeling his anger grow with each passing second. Now he also understood why the younger man had said he had killed Abby. It seemed his father's cruel words had left a lasting impression on the young boy that he still carried with him, thinking he would get the people he cared for killed. He could only imagine what else was in the nightmare that the younger man had conveniently left out. How horrible it must had been. And he had his own father to thank for that. That good for nothing son of a-
"Gibbs, don't. Please," Tony interrupted his trail of positively murderous thoughts. "It's not as if he meant it. He was drunk at the time. And I was being a brat, following him around and wanting his attention 24 hours a day. Of course he'd flipped out. I don't blame him."
"But I damn well do!" Gibbs growled, hitting the steering will in frustration, making Tony jump in surprise and look at him. "There's no excuse for what he had said, DiNozzo, you hear me? None."
"But he was grievi-"
"That's no excuse and you better remember that. You were grieving too, your mother just died in front of your very own eyes; you shouldn't even have had to ask for his attention, it was your right!"
Tony looked dubious, not entirely sure he believed the other man. "If you say so."
Gibbs shook his head." No, damn it, Tony. I mean it. You've said you trust me, so why can't you now? Would I really lie to you?"
Tony met his eyes, uncertainty written all over his pale face. "You haven't so far."
Gibbs nodded his head, ignoring the irrational flash of pain and disappointment Tony's answer had caused. It wasn't as if they had known each other all that long and expecting the younger man to just trust him implicitly right away was unreasonable.
"I won't." he wowed, "I mean everything I say. And when I say your mother's death wasn't your fault and your father was a bastard you better believe it or else I'll head slap you so hard, even Google won't be able to find you, got it?"
As choked up as he felt, Tony couldn't ignore the comment and looked at his temporary boss with a grin. "Didn't think you even knew what Google was."
"I don't. I've just heard Abby mention it a couple of times."
Tony bit the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing out loud. "Figures."
Despite the Gibbs' glower, Tony felt lighter than he had in years. In his own special way, the older man had given him what he had wished for since he was eight. Someone to tell him it was not his fault and that he had done nothing to deserve his father's anger.
"You know, for a bastard you are a pretty nice guy." Tony beamed at the glare the NCIS special agent sent him. "Well, once you ignore those glares and the bad temper that is."
Gibbs leaned forward with a smirk on his face and the young detective would have taken a step backwards if he wasn't sitting inside of a car. "You tell this to anyone and I'd have to kill you."
Tony tilted his head to the side and looked at the other man, a silent understanding passing between them. "But you'd rather not, right?"
Shaking his head, Gibbs laughed and impulsively ruffled his young partner's hair. "No, I'd rather not."
The beaming smile he got in return warmed the ex marine's heart. This was the first he had seen the Baltimore detective smile and mean it. Except for the 'being high on pain meds' smiles he threw around as if the world depended on them, of course. Which reminded him…
"After all, it's kind of hard to find people who are so amusing on painkillers as you are."
Tony paled almost immediately, his mind already running through all different scenarios of what could have happened while he was high from the meds. "So…um, did I say or do something embarrassing? "
"Depends on what you think is embarrassing," Gibbs replied, as he was fastening his seatbelt.
"Gibbs! Please, my pride is on the line over here!"
"Well, leave it hanging while you put your seatbelt on." The command in the sentence was quite obvious and Tony did as he was told, feeling decidedly childish for doing so. It felt nice.
"Seatbelt on, so would you please answer my question now?"
The special agent took his time answering and when he did, it wasn't anything that made sense for Tony.
"What do you think of The Smurfs theme song?"
The young Baltimore detective frowned at the question, feeling confused and not really sure he wanted to know what this was all about. "I can't even remember it."
Hearing Gibbs actually laugh out loud wasn't something Tony had expected to see. Ever. But it did happen, and it left him feeling more confused than ever before.
"Was it something I've said?"
Gibbs just shook his head and smiled at his bewildered expression. "More like something you've sang, Robin."
Hazy memories of singing and talking to stuffed hippos assaulted Tony's mind, making him groan and bury his face in his hands in embarrassment. He really wished he'd just kept his mouth shut…Damn.
Disclaimer: Don't own anything…not the characters and definitely not Google. Wish I did, though :P
Hey there guys!!! Before you all start cursing and throwing things at me, I do have an excuse for my very late update. Besides the usual issue of school, work and some personal stuff, some of my health problems decided it would be fun to worsen and complicate my life some more. Don't worry; it isn't anything serious. Just a bad case of migraines that make me nauseated a couple of times per week with none of your usual painkillers working. Fun, huh? I've tried writing several times, but it's just so hard when you're in pain and wanting to throw up. Plus it makes me feel tired…so, I am really sorry for letting you wait for so long, it wasn't my intention, at all. Hope you can all forgive me ;-)
Anyway, I want to thank everybody for all the wonderful reviews and alerts I'm getting. Believe me, they are like a ray of sunshine for me when I'm feeling down. I tried replying to everybody, but I think I may have missed a couple of you. Sorry…won't happen again;-) I do cherish you all the same:-)
About the chapter…was trying to write it as soon as possible, before the next migraine decided to strike…hope I didn't make much glaring mistakes. If I did, you're free to let me know and I'll correct it immediately. Hope you like it…it's a bit different than what I've planned, but oh well…
And last but not least, I'd like to dedicate this chapter to AZGirl...Hope it brightens your day!!! You're a lovely girl and a great person and I hope you'll only have reasons to smile from now on :-)
Oh, and Happy Easter!!!!! ;-) And while eating all the chocolate eggs, don't forget what the holiday really stands for :-)